In 2010 Geoff Johns wrote a special issue of Justice Society of America where Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, spends an afternoon with his son Todd, aka Obsidian, talking about family, heroism and the power of what is known as “The Starheart.” Within the book Alan Scott took a moment to talk to Obsidian about his relationship. You see, Obsidian, a fan favorite since the mid 1980’s, was one of DC’s most popular gay heroes. The scene, in Justice Society of America #43, was written as follows:
Alan Scott: How’s, er…Damon Matthew, right? You’re still…um…friends?
Obsidian: Yes. We’re still “friends” Dad. “Boy” friends. Kissing and everything.
Alan Scott: I’m from another time, Todd. Some things are hard for me to talk about all matter-of-fact like you. But I am glad you and Damon are still together. I’m glad for any joy that you…can find, and I hope that in some way it helps to out weigh the sadness.
This scene was a tender moment of realistic characterization between a man from an older generation engaging in conversation with his gay son. Alan Scott, who would be in his 80’s or 90’s, yet kept from aging due to his super power, is a product of a generation where homosexuality was misunderstood and feared. His gentle hesitation with the topic, whether right or wrong, is something that many men that grew up in the 40’s and 50’s might face, even if they have adapted to the society that has advanced around them. But Alan Scott’s acceptance and love of his son shines through as bright as the green flame in his ring. Two years after this touching and realistic scene between Alan Scott and Obsidian was written, DC Comics has announced that they have rebooted Alan Scott to be gay. That’s right. DC Comics brand new gay superhero is the original golden age Green Lantern. Let the controversy begin.
Bringing gay characters into comic books is not nearly as radical as some people might want to think it is. For decades the comic landscape has been filled with gay, lesbian and bi-sexual characters. From Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse, to Terry Moore’s Strangers to Paradise and DC Comic’s Batwoman, gay characters have managed to make their way into mainstream comics. But what DC seems to have done is make an attempt to muscle in on the gay themed comic based headlines that companies such as Archie and Marvel have been making over the last few years. When Archie Comics created openly gay Riverdale teen Kevin Keller, the character became so popular that he eventually got his own book. Dan Parent’s Kevin Keller stories are some of the best stories featuring a gay comic character ever written. Kevin’s popularity would lead to further headlines earlier this year when he became the first gay character to get married in the pages of Life with Archie, which features stories of the Riverdale gang as adults. Marvel followed by announcing that their premier gay character, Alpha Flight’s Northstar, would be the first gay superhero to get married in Astonishing X-Men #81. Is DC trying to trump these headlines by stating that they make Green Lantern gay? The problem with this is that Kevin Keller and Northstar are actually gay characters. Alan Scott is straight…or at least he was. Instead of doing something radical and celebrated, DC has instead alienated its readers even further then the DCnU has already and created a nasty atmosphere where gay politics have gotten thrown into the already passionate ring of comic fandom.
As part of the DCnU’s mandate to create a diverse new universe, writer James Robinson, who has been “recreating” the classic superheroes from the 1940’s in his new book Earth 2, will be bringing Alan Scott “out of the closet” in Earth 2 #2 which goes on sale later this month. Although the story only made international headlines in the last twenty four hours, the announcement has created a storm of controversy and confusion. From One Million Mothers coming forth screaming for a boycott of DC Comics, to comic purists that don’t agree with the decision being called “homophobic” and “anti-gay” on message boards when expressing their disapproval of the characters changed lifestyle, DC has literally created a situation where absolutely nobody wins. Alan Scott’s sudden sexual reorientation has quickly become a publicity stunt that has gone very, very wrong.
The problem isn’t that they made a character gay. The problem is that they made the wrong character gay.
Possibly one of the biggest problems with yesterday’s announcement is the fact that the headlines that the mainstream press have used has created enormous misconceptions to the mass public that have no idea about the history of Green Lantern. Throughout the world newspapers and internet media has been using the headline “Green Lantern is gay.” Well, to most people “Green Lantern” means one person – Hal Jordan. They don’t know what a Golden Age, Silver Age, Green Lantern Corps, Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Kyle Radner, reboot or DCnU is..and they don’t care. Although the body of the article may explain the situation, the basic misconception out in the public now is that Hal Jordan is gay. This is going to create nothing but headaches for comic book fans worldwide when their friends and co-workers ask them about this and they try to explain that, no…that Green Lantern isn’t gay. The original Green Lantern is gay…but not the “original” original Green Lantern but a rebooted Green Lantern on an alternate Earth after something called Flashpoint. This is going to sound like gibberish to any non-comic fan who hears the explanation, and before it can even all get said the non-comic reader has stopped listening anyways. It’s sort of like when they killed Robin in the 1980’s. Remember when papers reproted “Robin is dead” and fans had to explain that it wasn’t Dick Grayson but Jason Todd and non-comic fans got all confused…or didn’t care? It’s that all over again.
But beyond the basic annoyance of a massive sensationalized misconception, DC has created a brand new debate amongst come fans that is about to get as vicious as the “gay marriage” issue. Comic book purists, and fans of the character, are not going to have an easy time accepting Alan Scott as a gay character. This does not make them “homophobic,” “anti-gay,” “Republican” or “members of the Christian right.” The reason for this is because they are simply comic book fans. This is not a pure case of a character “coming out of the closet” or of having an ambiguous background in which a new sexual identity can be attached to the character, which how many established characters have “came out” over the years. Changing Alan Scott into a gay character is just too radical of a change from a character who has been a well established second tier character for seventy three years. Created by Martin Nodell and Bill Finger, Alan Scott was the original Green Lantern who initially appeared in comics from 1940 to 1951. He is not to be confused with the more widely popular Hal Jordan Green Lantern, a rebooted version of the character who made his debut in 1959. Due to the success of the rebooted version, Alan Scott was reintroduced alongside Hal Jordan in 1961, and eventually an entire universe of alternate Green Lanterns, known as The Green Lantern Corps, were introduced who would gain fan followings of their own.
Throughout seven decades of publication it has been well established that Alan Scott is heterosexual by including his relationships as a major part of his character’s history, including the fact that he has had romances with two of his villains, The Thorn and The Harlequin. In fact, Alan eventually married The Thorn, who had split personalities, but was “cured”, and the couple had twins Jenni Lynn and Todd, who would later become popular fan favorite superheroes Jade and Obsidian. However, Alan’s wife eventually had another breakdown and reverted back to her Thorn persona and committed suicide. Years later Alan found out that The Harlequin, alias Molly Maine, was in fact a government agent who was working undercover as a super villain, and their rekindled romance lead to Alan’s second marriage. However, while Alan’s aging process was slowed down due to an entity called “the Starheart” that gave him his powers, Molly continued to age into an old woman. In a 1995 story Molly was tricked by a demon named Neron to sell him her soul in an attempt to make her young again, but while her body became young, her soul was banished to hell. Alan Scott and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner made a journey to hell where Alan fought to return his beloved wife’s soul to her. This helped Molly become younger again, allowing her and Alan to remain one of DC’s happiest married couples. To long time fans, Alan Scott is not just a Green Lantern. He is a loving husband and a devoted father to two children, and even has a son who is, in fact, gay.
However, this entire history has been scrapped by the controversial “DCnU” which has allowed creators to rewrite long established fan favorite characters. A bold experiment by DC Comics, the idea has been controversial since its induction, and as months linger on the patients of fans have worn very thin, especially as the established characters and continuity that they have invested decades in seem to be dismantled at the whims of the DC editors. This is how DC has been able to change an established heterosexual character like Alan Scott into a gay character with the snap of a finger. For fans who are growing tired of the DCnU, a gay Alan Scott is just too radical. It is too much of a stretch from a character that has been established as heterosexual for decades. James Robinson has stated that one of his inspirations for making Alan Scott gay was the fact that the reboot has basically erased Obsidian, thus forcing DC to lose one of its most popular established gay characters, so he thought that perhaps Alan Scott should be gay as a way to replace him. DC editor Dan DiDio felt is was a great idea and “green lighted” the idea. However, long time fans and purists aren’t agreeing with the change, thus opening a tense debate that is putting comic fans on a very thin tightrope.
Making Alan Scott gay is not only the most controversial moves in the DCnU, but it is easily one of the worst. Fans that are against DC’s decision to make Alan Scott gay are being deemed “homophobic” and “anti-gay” on message boards and other forums, although this is not a political debate. This is a debate about the treatment of a long established fictional character. Despite the fact that James Robinson is one of the best comic book writers of the last thirty years, who has successfully rebooted golden age characters such as Starman (the son of the original Starman, who was, incidently, bi-sexual) and the Justice Society of America, despite his good intentions a gay Alan Scott is one of his worst ideas. Stating this does not make a fan “homophobic” nor does it make any indication of his political views on gay rights. Lets put it this way. Fans would have a hard time accepting if DC Comics decided to suddenly make Superman and African America but if they said it was a bad idea would that make them a racist? If DC decided to suddenly make the Flash a woman, would protestors be called misogynistic? And what if DC decided to actually make one of their established gay characters, such as Obsidian, Batwoman, Starman II, The Pied Piper or Tasmanian Devil straight? Imagine how the fur would fly then! Comic fans that don’t accept a gay Alan Scott may quickly be mislabeled as homophobic, but in reality they are just pointing out yet another stupid move by the DC editorial department. What James Robinson has done is take a character who’s characterization is so vividly known by his fans and has radically altered it for no reason at all for the exception of a media stunt. In fact Robinson has stated that this has nothing to do with the plot of Earth 2. If that is the case then why do it? The answer – press. Just press.
There are ways that James Robinson could have done the same thing without such a uproar. First of all, Robinson could have rebooted any one of literally hundreds of golden age characters that don’t have back stories as established as Alan Scott and wrote them as gay. In fact, in 1987 writer Roy Thomas wrote a story in Secret Origins #20 in which he suggested that popular JSA character Dr. Mid-Nite, aka Dr. Charles McNider, was gay. A character with a long history in comic, McNider’s back-story had always been underdeveloped and he had never been married nor had children and his only romantic interest was a nurse who had a crush on him who he showed little to no interest in. The story worked perfectly, but in 1987 the editors at DC were intimidated to pick up on Thomas’ ideas. Robinson could have easily picked up where Thomas left off. Furthermore, one of DC’s forgotten gems is a character called Madam Fatal which was actually a man who dressed up as a woman in an attempt to ambush his foes! The world’s first transsexual character, James Robinson included Madam Fatal in his recent Shade miniseries, making his first appearance since the 1940’s. However, perhaps Robinson could have made much better use of the character in Earth 2 instead. In fact, James Robinson has access to hundreds of golden age characters that he could have retooled as being gay such as Sargon the Sorcerer, Mister Terrific, The Jester, The King, Midnight, The Human Bomb, Firebrand and more then could ever be named in a single article. Establishing a character with an ambiguous background as gay would have been less radical, but then it would not have made the same headlines that a “Green Lantern” would.
The idea of a gay Alan Scott may have worked with fans if this “alternate” version of the character existed in a format where the established Alan Scott is still available to them. Marvel Comics reintroduced the popular X-Man character Colossus as gay in Ultimate X-Men, in which a rebooted version of the X-Men was published simultaneously with the traditional X-Men. As a result a gay Colossus was accepted easily by fans, and was able to make the impact that the writers of the book wanted. Marvel pulled a similar stunt with creating a black Spider-Man last year in Ultimate Spider-Man, which not only got mass headlines, but was accepted easily by fans. With the existing fan favorite still accessible to fans, alternate versions of the characters have their chance to thrive. However, by DC just revoking their established characters and putting radical changes on fan favorites, the reboot becomes that much more extreme, and as a result that much more unpopular. If the established Alan Scott existed somewhere alongside the new gay Alan Scott, fans would not be crying foul, and DC would still get the headlines that they wanted. However, this proves to be the ongoing problem with the DCnU as it is.
Making Alan Scott gay is a misguided stunt from a company that is scrambling to come up with press as a way to keep the public interested in the DCnU as it implodes upon itself. The DCnU has been an unpopular and controversial editing decision which continues to alienate its long time passionate readers. Now, by adding gay politics into the fold, DC has just made the comic community that little bit nastier. As I said, in this situation absolutely nobody will win.
PCA UPDATE: Cameron Rudlidge writes: “Hi. Interesting article about Alan Scott. What would you think if Alan Scott had came out as an older man to his wife and kids, sort of like Christopher Plummer did in the movie Beginners?”
Thanks for bringing up that scenario Cameron. Honestly, if James Robinson had chose to go in that direction with this story I am sure that a lot of fans would still be protesting it, but I feel that would be a much more realistic story for Alan Scott, and would have had far more dramatic storytelling and room for thought and discussion. DC could have had their headlines, and James Robinson could have written something that would have changed the status quo and wrote something that has not only never been done before in comics, but something truly remarkable. Furthermore, decades of continuity and fan favorite characters would not have been erased from continuity. It would have also made a comment about Alan as a product of his time, and how gay men across North America had to keep their secrets during the first part of the 20th Century. This happens to real life families all over the world, but it has never been dealt with in superhero comics before. A story like that would not only be something I would want to read, but something I would have endorsed. Thank you for giving us a scenario Cameron where everybody could have won. Too bad DC didn’t come up with it first.